On June 15, 1877, the Nez Perce (Nimíipuu) fled their homelands in search of safety to escape the violent engagements with the United States Army and find a more peaceful existence living according to their traditions. Pursued by the military, which included the 7th Infantry and 7th Cavalry of the U.S. Army, 750 Nez Perce, including 250 warriors, women, children and elders, and approximately 2,000 horses, set off near Wallowa Lake in eastern Oregon and traveled a circuitous 1,170 miles over five months through Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. The Tribe planned to ally with the Crow for security, but when that failed, they headed toward the Canadian border.
Along the way, the Nez Perce warriors fought the military and citizen volunteers valiantly across a series of battles. But starved and exhausted from the journey and persistent clashes, the brave Chief Joseph surrendered following a battle near Bears Paw Mountains in Montana, less than 40 miles from the Canadian border. Led by Chief White Bird, nearly 300 Nez Perce men, women and children managed to escape the battle at Bears Paw and make their way into Canada where, for a time, they joined Sitting Bull and the Lakota near Fort Walsh. Following the surrender, the Nez Perce were sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and eventually to reservations in Oklahoma, where deplorable conditions led to the death of most babies born on the Indian Territory. Today, the trail represents a sacred journey, connecting the surviving Nez Perces to the past, present and future.
- Travelers can retrace the historic route by car with more than 1,500 miles of federal, state and county roads designated the Nez Perce National Historic Trail Auto Route, with trail signs along the way.
- Auto Tour Pamphlets with maps, history and points of interest of all eight segments of the trail
- Google Map of Nez Perce Historic Trail Auto Tour
- Trail Map with modern-day travel routes and sites to visit along the trail.
- Essential Trail Companion: Following the Nez Perce Trail, A Guide to the Nee-Me-Poo National Historic Trail with Eyewitness Accounts by Cheryl Wilfong
- Outdoor Safety & Ethics & FAQs
- Each summer, the Nez Perce Trail Foundation offers a week-long driving, hiking and camping educational tour of the trail, visiting sites that include Wallowa Valley, Lolo Trail, Nez Perce National Historical Park, Big Hole Battlefield and Tamkaliks Celebration & Friendship Feast.
- Bear Paw Battlefield is the site of the final conflict of the Nez Perce War and Flight of 1877.
- Beartooth All-American Road: Lush forests become alpine tundra in just a few miles on the highest elevation road in the Northern Rockies, with access to Yellowstone National Park.
- The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway in northwest Wyoming.
- Heart of the Monster: The source of creation of the Nee-Me-Poo or Nez Perce Tribe.
- The Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretive Center tells the Nez Perce story and preserves tribal customs and culture. The center hosts the Tamkaliks Celebration & Friendship Feast each July.